For Mike McKenna and the Optus Stadium team, the easy part is over.
Years of planning, construction and fine-tuning came to an end yesterday, when 110,000 people walked through the gates at the 60,000-seat venue — the first Australian stadium built in more than a decade. And the response so far has been overwhelming.
In his accreditation decision, International Cricket Council match referee and former West Indies Test player Richie Richardson described the venue as one of the most impressive in the world.
Mr McKenna, the stadium’s chief executive, said the praise had been universal.
“We’re hearing that from everyone who is coming here and I think it’s very important that we hear it from the fans that come,” he said.
“You get invigorated by people coming here and you can see on their faces as soon as they walk in the door that they’re amazed and we want to see that look when they go out again, so we know they’ll come back.”
Mr McKenna, who has had previous roles at Cricket Australia, where he spearheaded the Big Bash League, and at the Essendon Bombers, was appointed chief executive in September 2016, and will lead the stadium through its opening stage. “We’ve been preparing to operate it for about a year — we’re here to attract events, sell tickets, give people a fantastic time and then give money to the State — that’s our job and we are ready to do that,” he said.
On top of new sporting experiences, Mr McKenna said the stadium would be a “game changer” for concerts.
The venue, which has already attracted shows from international superstars Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, would allow bigger concerts to come to Perth more often.
“If you can put on an event in the stadium and play one concert and as an artist you can make a good amount of money rather than having to play two or three concerts somewhere else to make the same amount, than that’s the trick for artists,” he said.
“Because of course they want to be able preserve themselves and this is an ideal place to draw those acts.”
Key to the sales pitch is the mantra which has driven the stadium — fans come first.
“It won’t be until people get here and watch cricket, or football, or soccer, or rugby that you’ll experience what it’s really like,” Mr McKenna said.
“This place is designed for fans to come here and enjoy the experience, to get here quickly and easily and leave here quickly and easily and have a great time.”